Sometimes the bear gets you, Sometimes you get the bear

Mark’s got a post up (yeah, I’m a week late with this) about Discovering the bear within:

7-The marathon comes. You finish. And finishing is a life changing moment that makes “I think I can” a thought of the past.
8-But there is more to prove. Finishing is no longer enough. You are full of “I know I can. I know I can do it faster. I know can I do it longer”. You are one buff bear.

Now, this is all well and good, but let’s face it: For some of us, finishing the marathon isn’t a life-changing moment, any more than graduating from high school, graduating from college, etc was.

Not to belittle the point – it’s a darn select group of people who actually finish a single marathon in their life, let alone run regularly, and I don’t mean to diminish that. But, having worked my butt off for one too many “life changing accomplishments”, let’s be honest: there aren’t any.

Finishing a marathon isn’t going to improve your relationship with your spouse. It’s not going to get you a promotion at the office. It’s not going to magically let you eat eight pounds of peanut brittle every day without gaining weight. It’s not going to do anything, by itself, to substantively change your life.

Finishing a marathon is just that – 26.2 miles, on your feet. Nothing more, nothing less.

Well, scratch that – finishing a marathon is another tool in your box, another arrow in your quiver. Finishing a marathon is proof positive that you can set and achieve big goals; that you can plan and execute a giant project. These are accomplishments; these are life skills that you’ve earned.

26.2 is but one way to show that you’ve got the skills, and an ephemeral one at that. Look at the string of DNFs, injuries, and dropouts we’ve see in in the RBF – does not getting to the finish really take away some of the bearness?

Again, sorry for the rant. Scratch out the “life changing moment” bit and the piece is beautiful. But, given the wide range of things that can actually change lives, finishing any given race isn’t one of them.

Go run. Get your life improved. Set and meet goals. But don’t count on a chorus of angels or a vision when you cross the finish line at 26.2. It won’t happen.

Change your own life.

12 thoughts on “Sometimes the bear gets you, Sometimes you get the bear”

  1. yeah i hear you, the only thing i would say is that sometimes it takes crossing the finish line on something that big to help someone get over the hump. like you know how some people decide to run a triathlon after they accomplish running a marathon…would they have still trained for the triathlon if they hadn’t ran a marathon? maybe.

  2. a point well made but I still think finishing IS a life changing moment for SOME people (don’t think I’ll get into the “why” of it). the problem with writing things like this is that statements like “life changing are rarely universal and/or resonate equally.

    And that’s a-ok.

    Thanks Bill. :)

  3. Oh, and I certainly don’t mean to diminish people who have had DNFs or have never ran a marathon. That would just be…mean.

  4. Ok, but sometimes an event is needed to validate whatever feelings we have. I would imagine finishing that marathon happened because someone “changed their own life,” got off their butt, and trained to run it. Having done that, they can now apply those skills to other things. I haven’t run one, but I have to say the experience of training and pushing myself has caused me to change other aspects of my life (with more confidence). It must come from within…I agree with that!

  5. Actually, finishing a marathon can in fact improve your relationship with your spouse under some circumstances…such as you now have at least a short time that you’ll training less and can spend a little more time with her/him…heheh.

  6. We’re creatures of comfort. We usually enter into activities with a reasonable expectation of completion, and put in a reasonable, safe level of effort. Not that we don’t work hard in our relationships, our work, and mowing the lawn; it’s just that if we don’t do everything we feel we could, we have some confidence that amends can be made, tomorrow.

    Some people walk up and run a marathon with the calm knowledge that their existing athleticism will carry them through to the end. For them, there’s no life-changing moment. They never doubted, they put in a reasonable effort, they accomplished.

    Some people, though, never really know for sure if they can complete a marathon, until they do so. Some sign up at the last minute, and limp across the finish line, but again, their lives don’t change. Many, though, approach the very real possibility of failure by putting extraordinary effort into training. For these people, I will believe that they may experience a life change. While, symbolically, this comes at the finish line, in reality the life change happens somewhere before that.


  7. The change does occur somewhere before the finish line; perhaps when you decide to run your first marathon and commit to the rigors of a training plan you had never imagined you were capable of doing. It works and it is empowering.

  8. completing a marathon may not be life changing to most. I would call it empowerment. For the various distances I run I feel the most fulfill after running a marathon. I belive this comes from feeling I can never accomplish much in shorter distances. I put in alot of miles which really do not reflect in my race times. I know many say Quality is better than quantity. Buy I’ve never thought of running any less. I just love running and I know what I’m capable of. I know if someone ask me to do a marathon next week I can. Just knowing this makes me powerful. Running is mind, body, and soul to me I feel it deep within. I would rather tell someone that I ran 4:30 marathon (which by the way is above averange according to an article I read on Cool Running) than 25 min 5K that would never place me even third in my age group. Yes the competiveness have past on that level. I looking to make the transition from marathoner to Ultras. Would you believe before I did my first marathon in October 03. I’d never thought it was possible now I have completed my 13th marathon May of 06, I know I’ll never win a marathon but do this make me want to do them any less, no, I want to do more many more. Not to please anyone else but myself, for me and me only. I get goose bumbs when I think about 30, 50, 100 miles . I’m think its impossible but I know when I complete my first I’ll want to accomplish more and more. I may not be the fastest runner in the world, but I am a Runner. Gosh I hope I did not get off the subject too much :)

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